• Melissa Hickey of the Demons handballs during the Women's AFL Exhibition Match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons on March 6 2016 (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
After a year of speculation on how it will be formed, the Australian Football League has now outlined to clubs how it expects the new Women's National League to operate in 2017.
By
Peter Holden

23 Mar 2016 - 7:25 AM  UPDATED 23 Mar 2016 - 7:30 AM

The competition

Eight teams will take the field in the inaugural season, including one team each from Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland. Players from Tasmania and the ACT will be allocated to New South Wales, while Victorian players will take part in a state-based draft to split them up amongst four teams.

The sides will participate in a six to eight week season, with finals, during February and March.

The players

In a discussion paper sent out on Monday March 21, each participating club will have a playing list of 25, which will include two 'marquee' players, all signed to a one-year contract.

Players will be represented in negotiations on pay and conditions by the AFLPA, with 175 players already reportedly signed on.

New club licenses

Applications are now being sought from the AFL’s member clubs.

To obtain a licence, clubs must address the criteria of the governance and administration, business development, football operations, strategic relevance and their broader commitment to female football.

Four clubs, seemingly assured, being the Western Bulldogs, Melbourne, the Brisbane Lions and Adelaide (as part of their joint venture with AFL NT). Port Adelaide have already ruled themselves out, GWS Giants and Sydney have both proven cautious, while Essendon would certainly be ruled out on governance and administration, in wake of the doping scandal that saw 32 players suspended.

AFL clubs have been given until April 29th to submit their application.

Number of teams

AFL General Manager of Game and Market Development, Simon Leathlean, told the league's website that eight teams is the right number to proceed with in the first season.

"There were 165 new teams last year and we believe there are enough women to sustain a viable national competition,'' Lethlean said.

The decision clashes with the call by the AFLPA's eight-woman steering committee who argued, based on their knowledge and experience, that six teams was the right number to start with.

"The female players would definitely like to see a competition that mirrors the AFL men's competition, so that's eventually getting to an 18-team competition. But there's a view right at the moment that the depth of talent is probably only at six teams but there's a year to go before launch," CEO of the AFLPA, Paul Marsh told Fairfax media.

"That may change, but as it stands today our steering committee believes that six is probably where it's at. That's a couple short of where the AFL sees it, and hopefully there can be rapid development of the players this year that ensures the talent is there for eight teams."

Suggestions the women’s competition should be modified causes outrage

It's also been revealed that a PhD student is currently studying aspects of the women's game, to advise the league whether player numbers or the length of quarter should be reduced. The female football community has already expressed anger at suggestions of reduced numbers or other changes such as super-goals or smaller playing fields.

Media coverage

It's hoped that game per week would be televised, with Fairfax media reporting the league has had positive discussion with radio networks.